I spent the past week on a sail ship with a Dutch captain that claimed to have invented gravity. He was dead serious. He further asked us to solve the following equation: “1 painter paints a house in 7 days. This means 2 painters paint the same house in 3.5 days. 1 ship sails to the U.S. in 7 days. So 2 ships sail to the U.S. in 3.5 days?”
In the end he concluded we were not “connected” because I failed to guess how many fingers he was holding up behind his back. And he called me a hypocrite for being vegan, that too.
Only the Dutch can be straight-to-the-point like this. Some of them, however, are actually worth listening to. Marc Argeloo is a Dutch ornithologist who has been working in Indonesia on and off since 1990. We met a few months ago at a seminar in Wageningen, had a nice chat on the train home, and finally he offered to send me a book as a useful, but fun introduction to my upcoming adventure. Not even a week after, I found said book in my mailbox – Maleo, The chicken with the golden eggs. A personal [read: not perfect] translation from page 25 of the book:
“In Holland, we daydream about romantic agriculture and fool ourselves that this is the rich and typical Dutch nature. But it’s nothing more than a human-design model on a
real-life scale, one in which all natural elements have been used excessively. And one in which every few acres are controlled by five different managers who each want to have their say. Don’t get me wrong, I also find peace in a culture-historic landscape where a subsidised shepherd walks his rounds on the prairie like a polar bear in an undersized cage in the zoo. But nature that finds its own way has little space in Holland. As soon as it even starts to manifest itself, the process is immediately channelled into controlled and predictable plans. We know this, but we don’t want to hear about it. Or perhaps in just a few decades we got brainwashed and drifted off so far that we cannot imagine how there used to be lynxes, wolves and porpoise here. To buy off our guilt about the impoverished West-European nature, we travel to destinations as Sulawesi [Indonesia] and we speak in superlatives about the untouched state and rich biodiversity far from our beds. We keep nature under the thumb and at a distance. In our own landscape by professionally screwing it up, and on a global scale by boasting the pristine nature of the neighbours.”
I did learn a lot about seas and oceans in the past week though. Mostly that I love them. And dolphins too!